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By Jordan W. Charness

Here is a story I had not heard before: someone wrote in and complained after she had bought a brand-new 2009 model car. After driving for just a couple of weeks, she noticed that her dashboard lights no longer came on when she turned on her lights at night. In addition to being annoying, this was dangerous in that she could no longer read her speedometer, nor any of the other crucial information presented on the dashboard.

When she took the car in to be fixed, she was told that since the car was a brand-new model, the replacement parts had not yet been sent to the dealer. Not only that, the manufacturer said that it did not have any replacement parts in stock and was not sure when they would be received. She also had one other complaint about the car: it pulled to one side and needed a wheel alignment. She was not happy with the car and was afraid of what else might go wrong. She thought it was a lemon and wanted her money back.

A friend of mine – not Peter this time – was so enamoured with his minivan that when the lease expired two years ago, he leased the latest model of the same van. His previous minivan had such a terrific track record that he was sure that the new one would be just as good. He was wrong.

According to him, this one was nothing but trouble. The load levelling suspension had to be reset three times, the transmission blew, the onboard computer failed twice and had to be replaced once, and most recently, the whole electrical system went nuts. He pulled up to a gas station and put gas into his car. When he returned after paying, he got into the car and it wouldn’t start. Not only that, when he tried to get out of the car, he found that he was locked in.

When he pressed the button to release the electric locks, it turned on the radio! When he turned off the radio, his windshield wipers came on. When he turned off the windshield wipers, his turn signal indicated that he was turning left. He tried to release the car lock manually, but each time he pulled up the lock button, the electric lock locked it before he could get out. He was seriously thinking of breaking the window to get out of his car. Fortunately, he managed to pull the lock up and pull the door handle at the same time, which opened the door so he could get out.

He called the manufacturer’s help line and a tow truck was sent. The truck driver told him that he had seen this type of thing happen before when the battery was very low. He boosted the battery, and the car started and ran normally. He drove the car to a store to buy a new battery and they confirmed that the previous one had corroded from the inside. In fact, the battery terminal broke off in their hands.

After he changed the battery for a new one, he got back into his car, inserted the key in the ignition, and prepared to drive away. Unfortunately, instead of starting, a light illuminated with the message “security.” Not having any clue what that meant, he dug out the manual and looked it up. According to the book, “security” means that the car does not recognize the key, and it suggested that he try to start the car with his other key.

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